#TCCBaseball: Eagles look for breakthrough in Lakeland

Cole Vann
Photo courtesy of Greg Rowland

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (May 10, 2018) – Tallahassee Community College's quest for a berth in the JUCO World Series begins at 10 a.m. Friday morning when the Eagles play State College of Florida at the NJCAA Gulf District/FCSAA State Tournament in Lakeland, Fla. 

All games will be played at Joker Marchant Stadium, spring training home of Major League Baseball's Detroit Tigers. 

The tournament continues through Tuesday, and the winner of the eight-team, double-elimination event will advance to the JUCO World Series in Grand Junction, Colo., which begins May 26. 

Seven of the eight teams in this year's field are past state champions including defending national champion and 2018 Panhandle Conference champion Chipola College. Tallahassee, who advanced to Lakeland as the Panhandle Runners-up, is the lone team still in search of its first title, and the accompanying berth to Grand Junction. 

Region 8 No. 7 Tallahassee (36-19) is making its second straight appearance in the tournament, and 11th overall. Friday will mark the third straight time (2014, 2017) the Eagles have opened the tournament against the Manatees (42-12-1), who are ranked No. 1 in Region 8 and No. 11 in the NJCAA but enter on a two-game losing streak and are just 6-5 in their last 11 games, the result of running away with the Suncoast Conference Championship. 

Similarly, Tallahassee went just 5-5 down the stretch, having punched its postseason ticket with three games remaining on the conference schedule. The Eagles did win their final tune-up, however, knocking off St. Johns River State College, 5-2, in Marianna, Fla., last Saturday. 

How long the Eagles hang around this postseason likely hinges on the performance of a deep and talented pitching staff, which emerged as the team's strong suit this season. Tallahassee leads the state and is seventh nationally with 493 strikeouts and its 3.95 team ERA is seventh-best in Florida, giving head coach Mike McLeod reason to believe his team can make a run in Lakeland. 

"We have guys who have been successful in different roles and that has allowed us to improve on how we close games," said McLeod. "But ultimately, we have to pitch ahead (in the count) and make the right pitch when it counts." 

Justin Sorokowski, Friday's projected starter, leads the Eagles in win (5), strikeouts (77) and ERA (1.86). He got a no-decision against State College of Florida on February 16, a game Tallahassee won in come-from-behind fashion, 8-5. The Eagles rallied for a 6-5 win the following day to sweep the two-game series from the Manatees, who proceeded to win 26 of their next 28 games.   

Tallahassee will play its second game in the tournament on Saturday – either at 10 a.m. in an elimination game or at 4 p.m. in the winners' bracket. 

All games can be seen live on the FCSAA Digital Network.